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The Speakers of the Senate of Canada


Hon. Sir Alexandre Lacoste
P.C., K.C.M.G., K.C. (1891)

A prominent Montréal lawyer, Alexandre Lacoste was the son of a well-known notary, legislative councillor, and senator. He played an important role in advising the Conservative Party behind the scenes, but resisted pressure to run for elective office. Instead, Lacoste concentrated on his law practice, which included many trips to London to plead before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, then Canada’s highest court. In one of his most significant constitutional cases he successfully argued that, under the British North America Act, 1867, a province had the power to tax commercial corporations. He was always ready to share his admiration for the Constitution given to Canada by Confederation and for the United Kingdom’s “liberal political policy” and institutions, especially as they affected French-speaking Canadians.

Eventually he agreed to accept a seat in Quebec’s upper house, the Legislative Council, in 1882, at the age of 40. In December 1883, he resigned, and the next month Conservative Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald nominated him for appointment to the Senate. Alfred DeCelles, the Associate Parliamentary Librarian, described what Lacoste “understood to be the chief function of the Senate: that our highest legislative body should form a court of revision, whose vigilance should be untiring.” Lacoste’s rational and focused approach to law, which was described by Laurent-Olivier David as “Nothing brilliant, [with] little polish in his arguments … but plenty of logic, force and clarity,” made him perfectly suited to sit on this “court of revision.”

Lacoste’s appointment as Speaker of the Senate in April 1891 was popular among his fellow senators. Less than five months later, however, Lacoste resigned the Speakership and his seat in the Senate to become the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench in Quebec, a position he held for 16 years. Shortly after this appointment, he was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1892, when he was 50.

Lacoste effectively spent over one year of his life on steamships going to and from England in order to argue cases before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, then Canada’s highest court.

Next Speaker: Hon. John Jones Ross

Previous Speaker: Hon. George William Allan

Portrait of the Honourable Sir Alexandre Lacoste

Born: Boucherville, Canada East, 1842

Died: Montréal, Quebec, 1923

Professional Background: Law

Political Affiliation: Conservative

Political Record:

Prime Ministers During Speakership: